After five-straight sub-.500 seasons, Appalachian State fired basketball coach Jim Fox last week. Hoping to avoid a twentieth straight year without an NCAA Tournament appearance, the Mountaineers are eyeing several candidates from big programs to replace him.
On Tuesday, Ethan Joyce of the Winston-Salem Journal outlined ten potential candidates to fill the Appalachian State job. Among them are Duke associate head coach Nate James and Kentucky assistant coach Joel Justus.
James is a former Duke star who has spent the last ten-plus years at Coach K's side. The 41-year-old James has yet to take on full-time head coaching responsibilities.
It’s taken large jobs to pull assistants from the Blue Devils program — see Johnny Dawkins to Stanford, Chris Collins to Northwestern, Steve Wojciechowski to Marquette and Jeff Capel to Pittsburgh. James hasn’t made his jump yet, but after spending most of his adult life in Durham, would he be willing to leave for Boone?
Justus has served under John Calipari as an assistant for three years now and, similar to James, has no experience as a college head coach. However, he does have several years of coaching high school basketball under his belt.
Appalachian State fired Fox following a 11-21 season that included a seven-game losing streak in the middle of the season. His final record after five years with the Mountaineers was 56-99 with a 35-59 record in the Sun Belt Conference.
The school has not appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 2000, and has made only two appearances ever.
Appalachian State last saw action in any post-season tournament back in 2010, when they made it to the CIT Semifinals as the Southern Conference winners.